A mysterious outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli has erupted in the United States, sickening more than a hundred people across six states.
Now, health officials may finally have the answer: ground beef.
CDC Preliminary Findings Blame Meat
According to a newly released report from CDC, investigation is still ongoing, but preliminary evidence point to ground beef as the source of the outbreak. Patients who became infected reported eating ground beef at home or in restaurants prior to their diagnosis.
Further investigations of the CDC will focus on tracing the common brand, supplier, or distributor of ground beef associated with the sick individuals.
There have been 109 confirmed individual cases of E. coli infection, so far. Among them, 17 have been hospitalized for the infection.
Six states are part of the outbreak, including Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia.
More About The Recent E. Coli Outbreak
The people who suffered from the outbreak were infected by a specific strain known as the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O103 or STEC. After consuming the bacteria, individuals usually get sick within three to four days.
Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting.
While the infection usually only lasts five to seven days, STEC infected people can also develop a potentially life-threatening condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is one type of kidney failure. Most patients recover within a few weeks, but a number get permanent damage or die, according to the CDC.
In the recent outbreak, there have been no cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome reported.
What To Do Amid E. Coli Outbreak?
While the CDC has identified ground beef as a culprit, the agency is not recommending people to avoid consumption of ground beef. They're also not discouraging retailers from serving or selling ground beef.
To ensure the safety of the meat, the CDC instructs consumers and restaurants to thoroughly cook the beef before eating or serving it. Proper hygiene and cleanliness of the kitchen are also crucial when handling raw meat.
Internal temperature of cooked ground beef is recommended to be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooked ground beef should also be refrigerated within two hours and used within three to four days. On the other hand, raw ground beef should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours after buying it. Refrigerated meat should also be used within a day or two.
Those who suspect they are infected with E. coli should talk to a healthcare provider as soon as possible. It would also be helpful for people to recall and write down everything they consumed the week before getting sick.